When Can Someone Call Themselves a Real Estate Photographer?

August 11th, 2016

TourVendorsHeather in Kentucky asked the following:

I have been working hard on applying the tips you gave me to make my photos better! I know I still have aways to go, but I can already see the improvement. Thanks! I was also wondering… when can someone call themselves a “real estate photographer”? Is there an association to apply for an join, or a degree to earn? Or can just anyone say “oh yeah, I’m a real estate photographer”? Even if they have no real experience or equipment?

The real test for being a real estate photographer is your portfolio of work. Anyone can say anything they want but other real estate photographers and knowledgeable clients can see what kind of real estate photographer you are by looking at your portfolio of work. This is why an up to date portfolio website is so important. It’s how your work is judged and it is the center of your marketing. Use only 10 or so of your very best images in your portfolio and make it the first thing that displays on your portfolio site.

Yes, there is a real estate photographer’s association called the Real Estate Photographers of America & International (REPAI). And guess what they do before the let you become a member? They review your real estate portfolio to see if it meets their specific criteria. And you also must agree to adhere to their code of ethics. Becoming an REPAI member is a good way to establish your real estate photography credibility.

I don’t know of any real estate photographer degrees.

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8 Responses to “When Can Someone Call Themselves a Real Estate Photographer?”

  • Heather,
    This is such a great blog to belong to as you will see some of the most beautiful photography here, from photographers all over the world. I’ve also learned so much from these photographers. What I would suggest, is when you create a real estate website, is to only use real estate photos (unless you also do portrait head shots for agents). I’ve seen many photographer’s websites that showcase all of their different types of photography, but if you want to be know as a real estate photographer, then only use real estate/ architectural images. if you do shoot other subject matter that you want to showcase, (landscapes, flowers, people or fine art), then build a separate website for your art.
    If you don’t have a website yet, go to WIX.com to see what they offer. they have may excellent templates and they can even host it for you. Good luck

  • Heather
    I agree with Eric completely. You can have a separate domain name for both of your types of photography. I have. You can even link between then. I use one domain name which is just my name and another that sticks “photography” at the end. And I would suggest that having just your very best images on the site is better than building up the volume with some that are inferior just to show experience and range. This is true actually for all photo portfolios. I have been a commercial/advertising/editorial photographer since 1970 and only a RE photographer for 4 years now. It is such a different market in so many ways including paying low fees that it takes a different mind set. And clients don’t want to spend much time wading through images and information that does not apply to what they are looking for. So keep text to a minimum and let photos be the stars. You can then provide other information further into the site for things like terms of business, helpful information like “property photo prep” to help agents and seller “declutter”, price list and so on.

    As for whether you can call yourself an RE Photographer? If you shoot RE then you are an RE Photographer. How good a one, how experienced a one is another thing. But as you are new to the field, others here have recommended that your process of entry is as much about your people skills and marketing skills, so perhaps offering to do a property free or at vastly reduced price to prove your chops to a new client, deliver high quality images fast, then keep your prices up once you have your client on the line. People will tend to value photography based on what they pay for it. That’s true of most things.

  • Thanks so much!! I am trying to be a sponge and soak up as much as I can. Larry has been super helpful! I also stalk this website daily and read the comments on almost every post! I try to use what I am learning, but I only shoot a few listings a month (very part-time, small kids at home, etc). My hope is that when my kids are older and go to school, I will be “trained” enough to really go out there and market myself. Right now, I have a website, a few clients (who seem very pleased with what I can deliver), and an eagerness to be better! What I lack in expertise…I try to make up in other areas, like costumer service and very quick (day of) turn around.

  • You can call yourself a Real Estate Photographer when let’s say a good percentage of your total income is coming from shooting Real Estate projects. What’s that percentage… To be discussed but my opinion is at least 50%

    Associations and affiliations are nice, however don’t mean much these days..

  • Heather, just in case you’ve not seen the Flickr forum I would suggest you spend a lot of time looking through the photo pool and reading the comments, plus have a look through the discussion threads.

    https://www.flickr.com/groups/photographyforrealestate/

  • If you have happy clients who are paying you for real estate photos then you’re a real estate photographer – simple as that!

  • Heather,

    While I totally understand everyone’s point about defining yourself as a “real estate” photographer by having a dedicated real estate only website. I agree more with Michael’s point… what percentage of your income comes from real estate photography. You’ll notice that I DO NOT have a real estate only website, as I also do portrait and product photography. However, more than 80% of my income is generated from real estate photography. That’s what I do day in and day out… that is my job… that’s what pays the bills. When people ask what type of photography work I do, my answer is “I’m an Architectural / Real Estate photographer”. When they ask if I do other things like portraits or weddings… sure, I’ll do them. But I don;t market myself as such.

    As far as Professional Associations… you don’t really need them. But I am a member of Professional Photographers of America (PPA) mostly for the insurance. After talking with my insurance agent, PPA’s photography specific insurance is hard to beat. I’m sure I’ll take advantage of the education options as well… such as their certification program, etc. But being a member does not qualify you as a Pro. Professional means you make your living at it.

  • Heather, hello!!! I agree with the comments above, and I, as you, are new to RE photography. Just like any fine art, you must practice to craft your art. One thing I believe you should do is practice practice practice. Don’t wait for paid gigs. Practice in different lighting.

    Approach churches and businesses or friends in your area that are FSBO just to be able to practice. The same thing goes for post processing. If you use a non destructive software (such as Lightroom) you can practice HDR then do a single shot with adjustments and see what you like better for your tastes. It takes time, but it will be worth it to grow your business.

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